Credit cards have a way with words. Some of the best lines have centred round their use. From the ‘No charge’ slogan in the 80s, to the Not the Nine O’clock News sketch with Pamela Stephenson where she invited her credit card customer to stroke her boob (ok, it was a location joke, a vintage location joke playing on the fact that America Express took an exalted view of its own brand of commerce) to the most recent Mastercard line, There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else there’s Mastercard.
Of course, the ultimate irony with credit cards is that while they are selling you a way of life, in reality they are just helping you spend money more easily and costing everyone a percentage into the bargain. Credit cards take their cut, like Shylock’s pound of flesh, and usury is a dirty business after all.
Being a credit card is a bit like being a parent. Or is that being a parent is just like being a credit card. It’s all spend, spend, spend on one’s progeny. Unlike credit cards, however, there is not a fixed expiry date. It just keeps bobbing along until the parent expires.
Of course parents can extract their revenge on their children in two ways. One to live long enough to see them have teenage children. Sweet! And secondly is to live long enough to have to reside in a very expensive nursing home claiming back some of the investment made at the early years of their children’s lives.
Either way, a child is not just for Christmas but for life.
In my travels in this world I thought I had finalised the expenditure of my parents at a range of points, and in each case proved myself wholly wrong. While in Trinity College, Dublin I worked in the States during the summers and paid my own tuition fees. I thought at that stage I’d finished asking my parents for final handouts. Not!
I bought a flat in London at the height of the property market and borrowed the deposit off my parents. It was a sure thing, Not!
I sold my flat at the bottom of the London property crash to move to Australia and borrowed money from my parents to sell it in negative equity. End of financial dependency? Not!
I returned to Ireland and set up home in Dublin. When my husband wanted to move career and we bought a ruined manor house down the country to renovate it, we moved to my parent’s home for a year. To be sure no money changed hands: we did not actually ask them for money but neither did we pay rent. My abiding memory was my husband and I being given free rein in the TV room (a converted bedroom) while my father watched television on a small mobile in the bedroom, and my mother read down in the living room. They never complained. Their currency was love and support.
Fast forward ten years on and the marriage failed. My father had also died in the intervening years. My aged mother (gosh, she would kill me for that description, she is lively as a hare in March) who was then in her late seventies travelled down to mind our youngest every second week. Since we bought Raheengraney House in 1996, I had become the sole breadwinner in the family. By 2008, and now beginning our separation, our eldest was in weekly boarding and my newly ex husband minded our youngest week about. He had been a house husband since moving down to Raheengraney House, a career of guestkeeping not really suiting him.
At the start of separation I had money and thought nothing of it. As my divorce progressed along with the recession in Ireland and the failure of my business, twice, I began to rely on my mother’s largesse again. Is there no end to which a child may rely on a parent, I wonder.
I am still so far from being out of the woods it is a shocker. I wrote a blog last year when the bailiffs came and I said I’d hit rock bottom. Not so, this autumn to my great sadness I have to let go my long term friend and colleague and retreat my business back to my house.
I have to confess. I have hit more bottoms than Mr Grey and without the same level of enjoyment it must be said.
What is it to be parent? To be a child? To be bound in an endless series of engagements, some happy, some sad and many financial. I am so endlessly grateful to my parents and to my mother who is second to none.
This blog was written as my eldest daughter having done her leaving and at 18 is taking a gap year, doing courses and seeking out the love of her life, working with horses. And her now gainfully employed father, who has paid her child maintenance for the past eighteen months declares himself no longer responsible for her financial upkeep. She must look to herself to support herself. Am I to follow suit? Am I fuck! My child is my child whether she is 18 or 47. She is still my child. She is a hard worker who has chosen a tough career. She is my joy, my burden, my love and I would have it no other way. Thank you Mum (and Dad!) xx
Lovely written piece. Love the line ” a child is not just for Christmas but for life”.
The reference to the sketch from Not the Nine O’Clock News brought back some memories. Loving the book also.
wow thank you. double wow! As you can see im very articulate this morning! wow! and thank you!